It was the legendary Sammy Woods, captain of Somerset for 12 seasons in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, who famously observed: “Draw(er)s? They’re only for bathing in.”
We can only imagine what the immortal Sammy would make of a Division One Championship table in which, after 13 matches, there have been only two results. More to the point, it will be fascinating to see what Chris Rogers, a fellow Australian import captaining Somerset, and his opposite number, Ian Bell, can do to fashion a result over the next four days. Both have seen their teams play out three draws so far, stalemates created by a combination of bland pitches and dismal weather.
The fact that Warwickshire sit in second place in the table whereas their visitors are one from the bottom can be ignored because only seven points separate them. It is more pertinent to note that Warwickshire have a tried and tested bowling attack that includes four players – Rikki Clarke, Boyd Rankin, Jeetan Patel and the in-form Keith Barker – who all took over 40 wickets last year. Somerset, on the other hand, have a much less experienced bowling unit, though the youthful enthusiasm of the Overton twins, Lewis Gregory and Jack Leach is reinforced by more battle-hardened Peter Trego and ex-Bear Tim Groenewald.
There is a mass of experience and expertise in the batting ranks of the two sides. Warwickshire have England pair Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott and can bat right down the order as far as hard-hitting Jeetan Patel at number ten. Somerset have the formidable trio of captain Rogers, Marcus Trescothick and James Hildreth who between them have scored a stunning 169 first class hundreds.
Given the right conditions, we should get a high-class contest between two teams desperate to record their first win of the season.
As an aside, it is worth noting that there will be a memorial service for broadcaster, journalist and ex-Warwickshire bowler Jack Bannister in the Banqueting Hall at Edgbaston on Monday at 12 noon. The players will, of course, be otherwise engaged. But they would do well to give a nod in the appropriate direction to honour the man. As successively secretary, chairman and president of the Professional Cricketers’ Association, Jack Bannister was instrumental in achieving proper contracts of employment with decent terms, minimum wage levels and pension schemes for cricketers in this country.
Keith Barker has so far this season taken 13 wickets as well as scoring valuable runs down the order. Warwickshire supporters have looked on with bemusement as other left-arm seam bowlers with lesser credentials have moved ahead of him in the England pecking order. With a Barbados-born father, he could equally play for West Indies. Whether either country comes calling remains to be seen. In the meantime, his ability to take early wickets makes him a key figure in this Warwickshire side.
For Somerset, Chris Rogers is in the early stages of applying his fair but uncompromising style of captaincy to the Somerset side. He has already demonstrated that his batting skills remain undiminished with 130 runs for once out against Lancashire. This looks like a season when every chance of victory has to be taken; and Rogers may well be just the man to seize those moments when they arise.
The Warwickshire squad is likely to include Laurie Evans, Chris Wright, Oliver Hannon-Dalby and Josh Poysden in addition to the team that played Yorkshire. With the arrival of warmer weather, Dougie Brown might just be tempted to include leg spinner Poysden in the final selection. Ian Westwood is short of runs at the top of the order, though it is difficult to see who might replace him unless Ian Bell promotes himself to open.
Warwickshire squad (probable): Ian Bell (c), Tim .Ambrose (wk), Keith Barker, Rikki Clarke, Varun Chopra, Laurie Evans, Sam Hain, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Jeetan Patel, Josh Poysden, Boyd Rankin, Jonathan Trott, Ian Westwood, Chris Woakes, Chris Wright
Jim Allenby and Johann Myburgh are in the Somerset squad and one of them will replace Roelof van der Merwe, dropped after just nine runs in four innings. Lewis Gregory is also likely to play. Craig Overton might be rested after bowling 31 overs against Lancashire.
Somerset squad: Chris Rogers (c), Tom Abell, Jim Allenby, Ryan Davies (wk), Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Jack Leach, Johann Myburgh, Craig Overton, Jamie Overton, Peter Trego, Marcus Trescothick
Form so far this season:
Weather and conditions
There was snow at Edgbaston during the Yorkshire game. No such problems this time with Birmingham forecast to be hotter than Majorca and Ibiza in the next few days. Worryingly, though, there is the possibility of rain coming in from the south to disrupt play on Tuesday.
As for the pitch, the challenge for groundsman Gary Barwell is to produce a surface that doesn’t hand the initiative to the away side who can choose to insert the opposition but still offers enough to the bowlers to prevent yet another draw. Alongside Messrs Barker and Rogers, Mr Barwell could well be the third key man in deciding the destiny of this match.
Date: 8th to 11th May 2016
Time: 11.00 am
Ground: Stadium Edgbaston
Umpires: Ian Gould and Neil Mallender
The aforementioned Jack Bannister used often to give the advice: “’Never bet on anything that talks.” For those who choose to ignore this:
(SkyBet): Warwickshire 1/2, Somerset 13/8